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What is wrong with Pain Killers, NPR, the Democractic Party and Conservation Biologists?

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Critical Analysis
What is wrong with pain killers, NPR, the
Democratic party, and Conservation Biologists
By Jess A. Rivas
Axis of Logic
Tuesday, Oct 9, 2007
I realize that this title is likely to produce animosity more than interest
since people that read this site, listen to NPR, vote mostly democratic,
and support greatly conservation biology causes. Pain killers are also
quite a useful resource, (certainly among the US�s middle class),
although their evils are more apparent given their propensity to cause
addictions. I hope to demonstrate that there are many similarities
between these categories creating the illusion of a solution and
distracting from what is really needed. I will revise them all, beginning
with pain killers.
Lately the USA has been suffering from the problem of addiction to pain
killers due to the habit of taking them liberally when there is any
problem, instead of addressing the problem that is causing the pain.
Let's consider somebody who has a cavity in a tooth. When the tooth
aches, the person can seek a real solution: make an appointment with
the dentist, and have the cavity fixed, or s/he may take a pain killer.
Needless to say, that the pain killer is cheaper, less painful and
produces quite acceptable results,�the first time around. Of course,
since the cavity persists, the pain will come back, and the person will
have again the choice of solving the problem or taking another cheap,
affordable, convenient solution. Of course, continuing this cycle that
avoids the pain and expenses of a dental treatment would lead to
nothing cheaper or less painful, such as root canal, tooth loss and gum
infection. Yet, the use and abuse of pain killers to solve all kinds of
problems is not rare.
Most free minded people, and liberal thinkers resort to National Public
Radio (NPR) for their news and we often take their reports for truly fair
and balanced, showing both sides of the issues. However, a closer
inspection would reveal how the news is always biased towards one side
and often omits critical information, perhaps not as blatantly as other
news sources, but still, far from the real accurate news. Consider the
atrocities committed by the occupation forces in Iraq at the Abu-Ghraib
prison. Shortly after the news came out, the Bush administration
labeled them as "prisoner abuse" and that was the only term that NPR
used to refer to them thereafter. Now, let's see what constitutes
"prisoner abuse" in the English language? Prisoner abuse would be
something of the likes of shoving them around, kicking them on the
rump--, that kind of treatment. To have a prisoner, shackled and
treating him/her this way would be wrong and we would be right to label
it an "abuse of prisoners". Placing electrodes to someone's genitalia and
giving him electric shocks is torture and it cannot be labeled anything
else. If you label those kinds of atrocities as "prisoner abuse", it really
condones the action and allows the perpetrators to soften the atrocity
and underplay what really happened. Among the hundreds of times (or
perhaps thousands) that the reporters from NPR have referred to these
atrocities in the Iraqi prison, we would be hard pressed to find a dozen
times in which the reporter from NPR press called it torture. If we
continue our analysis we see that NPR is consistently guilty of similar
biases around other issues. For instance, it is not difficult to find reports
about the Iranian president, the leader of Hezbollah or any other Persian
or Arab officials. Notice how religiously NPR ends the report reporting
Why the determination to avoid a
Christmas lockdown when we did
nothing to ‘save’ Eid and Diwali?
Palestine and the Middle East:
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Toxic Legacy When Departing
White House”
‘I won the election’ – how powerful
people use lousy lies to twist reality
Flying Dragon, Crashing Eagle
The Germans are Back!
Romania’s Ceausescu and
America’s Trump: What to Do with
Two Authoritarians That Refuse to
Pompeo thinks Israel is great
domestic politics for 2024
If the ‘Great Reset’ really is so good
for us, let’s hold a referendum on it,
so it can have a democratic
mandate (or not)
US election fraud is real - and it's a
longstanding tradition
Trump won, regardless of the
election outcome… because
Trumpism is here to stay
W o rl d Ne w s
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Assassinated As Israel Tries To
Provoke War
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Why stop there? What about
burning at the stake, or boiling in oil,
or decapitation with an olive fork?
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Venezuela continues selling oil to
China despite US sanctions
13 Australian soldiers receive
discharge notices after probe finds
evidence of war crimes in
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Supreme Court’s dead-of-night
decision enshrining ‘religious rights’
over all others
Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul’s
trial moved to terror court
Finally! Long overdue, other
countries should follow suit a.s.a.p.
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with the statement that such person "does not recognize the right of
Israel to exist". If the reader is a NPR listener, I am sure s/he can recall
hearing this statement countless times; quite often towards the end of
the report as a "take home message". Now, can we recall any broadcast
in which the reporter mentions that Israeli officials do not recognize the
right of Palestine to exist? This is quite an omissions, not only for the
frequency with which it happens but also because Israel's attitude
towards Palestine is at the core of all the problems of the Middle East
(Carter 2006), yet NPR's "fair and balanced" reporting hardly ever (if
any time) points out that Israel�s government commits the same fault
as the Muslims leaders with regard to recognizing the other party's right
to exist.
The reader probably thinks that even though NPR may not be perfect, it
is a hell of a lot better than other news media. While it is true, it does
not change the fact that NPR is presenting us with biased information.
It is also true that by being less biased we are less likely to doubt what
we hear and less likely to seek better sources of information, thus
creating a distraction that serves the agenda of the main stream media.
The other part that many people do not know is the darker side of NPR,
that lobbies in order to stunt the growth of other community radio
operations that may be their competition for local audiences. While I
was involved with Knoxville First Amendment Radio (KFAR) we knew that
our main obstacle in getting a license to broadcast with higher power
was the local NPR station preventing us from getting the permits.
Understandably, if there were a high power community Radio they would
compete for audience (and donations) with WUOT. So, not only is NPR
not doing their job of giving the people fair and balanced news, but also
by their sole presence (and active lobbying), they are preventing the
people from getting more complete news.
The Democratic Party is just as guilty as NPR of producing the illusion of
an alternative to the Republican Party. Nobody would argue that their
policies are not a lot better than those of the Republican Party for the
poor people of the country and also for the environment. But the
solutions that the Democratic Party offers fall far from the real needs
and the problems of the country. For instance, they talk about making
health insurance more affordable or universal health insurance, not
about universal health care and making sure that everybody receives the
medical care that s/he needs (as in the case in all the developed
countries and several developing ones). They talk about raising
minimum wages, not about making sure that every body can make
"living wages". They talk about keeping more jobs in the US, not about
stopping NAFTA and other free trade agreements that are so badly
strangling the working classes (and the environment). They talk about
"better diplomatic policies" and working with our allies, not about a
deeper change in our approach to international politics; stopping for
once and for all, policies of invasions, warmongering and "regime
changes" that have characterized the US for the last century. This is
only a list of the many issues in which, while having a better proposal
than Republicans, the Democratic Party still falls short of providing a real
solution. In the mean time, because of their sole presence (and also
active lobbying) they prevent the development of a truly pro-people and
pro environment party that would stand for world peace, the rights of
the working classes, true environmental policies and not catering to the
corporate interests. So while the Democratic Party produces the illusion
of an alternative, it does not help to solve the real problems the people
have and ends up distracting from the search for a real solution.
Although it we may not like to hear this, conservation biologists also
incur pretty much the same sin as the previously mentioned groups by
creating the illusion of a solution while at the same time diverting
attention (and funds) from what would be a real solution, some times
engaging in what has been called Tylenol Conservation (Rivas 2007a).
We can see this trend in the many aspects of the work that conservation
biologists do. I am talking about things such as setting up priorities for
conservation, or trying to find out what is the minimum amount of land
needed to preserve this many species, or protecting hotspots to protect
the larger amount of diversity, or trying to pass legislation that would
protect pristine areas, or to get the government to subscribe to the
Kyoto protocol.
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There is no doubt in my mind that by now if the reader is up to speed on
the priorities of environmental conservation, s/he may be up in arms
against me since these activities I have listed are considered as THE
thing to do, the landmarks of success, what conservation is all about.
How dare I present them as diversions and illusions to a solution! Well
the truth is that all these activities are equivalent to racing on a
treadmill. We will never beat the treadmill and we always know that the
best we can do is buy a few more years before the other shoe drops yet
conservation biologist present them as great alternatives. If there is any
doubt, let's consider the case of the Alaskan National Wildlife Artic
Refuge (ANWAR). At the end of the 1990s after a lot research
documenting its uniqueness and a years of intense lobbing by
environmental activists, it finally acquired legal protected status. At the
end of the Clinton Administration it was protected "in perpetuity". A
great victory for the environmental movement and an example of "how
things should be done". Five years later the legislation was abrogated
and now it is, again, available for exploitation and we are back where we
began. The campaign to protect it "in perpetuity" lasted longer than it
lasted under protection!! I am not saying that the protection of the
Alaskan wilderness was not a great, and well deserved, triumph of the
environmental movement but, as the facts have shown, it did not solve
the problem so long as the bigger problem was not addressed.
These measures of conservation that only produce the illusion of a
solution can be found on the "best" cutting edge conservation planning
around the world. Consider the looming problem of global warming.
Conservation biologists and conservation advocates are pushing hard to
get the US government to subscribe to the Kyoto agreement, yet all
studies and scientists agree that even if the world were to abide by the
Kyoto protocol we still would be way short of the mark we need to meet
to stop global warming. Like universal health insurance proposed by the
Democrats, it falls short of what we need and in the mean time it drains
all the resources, and efforts that the conservation movements need to
move towards a real solution.
Conservationists around the world frolic furiously with all kinds of Tylenol
solutions to the problems such as ethanol, biodiesel, compact halogens
and what-have-you while very few are really bringing the point home of
the real solution: cut down in consumption by changing our life styles
and redefining our society to meet energy limitations of the planet.
Surely the reader may think that even though this goal would be nice, it
is unrealistic and we would rather do what we can, than not do
anything. Just like somebody with a tooth ache could have a root canal
or take a pain killer, the pain killer is cheaper, and does not involve the
complicated process of getting an appointment. Plus, the root canal
itself is not barrel of laughter. However, can the person afford not to
have the root canal? The pain killer produces the illusion of a solution
and diverts from the real actions that are needed to solve the problem,
just like the actions of many conservation biologists do.
Just out add the third strike that completes the out I will comment on
the fact that all conservation biologists, without exception, will agree
that consumerism, leading our society, is a terrible problem causing not
only pollution, but also depletion of prime matter and a myriad of bad
consequences for the environment. Yet, most conservation biologists
would advocate, vehemently, for recycling, buying from more thoughtful
sources that practice sustainable use and so on, while very few
conservationists would advocate against consumerism and the capitalist
system that relays on it. We all know that recycling is a good thing but,
again, it falls short of the real need, which is to reduce the consumption
of prime materials that are been depleted. Notice that I am not arguing
against recycling, (I would not tell someone with a tooth ache not to
take a pain killer.) what I argue against is recycling (or down-cycling as
McDonough & Braungart 2002 would prefer to call it) as the only
solution, without moving swiftly to a change the in paradigm in which
our consumptive and wasteful style of living is significantly lowered or
eliminated. Back to the comparison with the tooth ache analogy. It is
acceptable to take the pain killer once you have made a dental
appointment and a real solution is underway. What one should not do is
to focus too much on getting better and stronger pain killers (biodiesel,
ethanol, compact halogens, protecting hotspots, electric cars, and so on)
and not target the real problems.
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No doubt I have exceeded the doses of iconoclastic rhetoric the reader is
willing to withstand. After taking aim at to the Democratic Party, NPR
and the conservation biology itself, I am also taking aim at the Capitalist
system. People are capable of great deeds. We are capable of
deciphering the secrets of nature and we have learned to predict the
behavior of very complicated systems. However there is something we
do not do well. We do not unlearn well. Things that we have been
taught, and on which we have based not only our jobs, life styles and
society, and even strategies for conservation, - are the same thing that
we have a hard time changing, or even considering they may change.
We knew that capitalism and free market economy was THE way to go,
the "end of the story", the greatest system-- period. Few people will
argue against the notion that at the core of most (all?) conservation
problems we can find one or many of the following: over consumption,
poverty, corporate greed, pollution, corruption, hunger, and unfair
distribution of resources. Few people would disagree that all of these
are Captialism's despicable close relatives. Yet, very few biologist dare
to propose a system different than capitalism and free market economy
even though it can easily be traced as to being responsible (at least
partially) for the great majority of conservation problems. Brian Czech
has presented theoretical arguments and data demonstrating that the
unlimited growth economy is not compatible with conservation (Czech
2000; Czech et al. 2000). I argue elsewhere that an economic system
that is not based on the unlimited accumulation of capital, but on the
well being of the people, has a better chance of providing a frame work
for conservation efforts to flourish and obtain best results (Rivas 2007b).
Perhaps, the one that puts it best is Wendell Berry. "We do need a "new
economy", but one that is founded on thrift and care, on saving and
conserving, not on excess and waste. An economy based on waste is
inherently and hopelessly violent, and war is its inevitable by-product.
We need a peaceable economy"(Berry 2001).
I imagine that the reader may be asking: But what can we do? We are
not economists or politicians? I do not know the answer to that. We
can certainly learn about those things we did not learn in school, such as
politics, macro economics and so on. We should not fear changes.
Many people panic when the news gets out that NPR may be running out
of funds. We must remember the basic principles from ecology, if NPR
goes out, there will be an open niche that will soon be filled. We shall
not fear changes on the political landscape of the country either. If
there was a new raising party or a division of the Democratic Party with
a more liberal, pro people branch, it might not be all that bad on the
long run. And, of course, if there was a proposal for a different
economic system that did not have the accumulation of capital as sole
and only goal and guidance, it might be an idea worth exploring.
Despite the similarities I have pointed out between NPR, the Democratic
Party, and conservation biologists with pain killers, there is a big
difference. Pain killers will never be a solution to the problems. For their
very nature they are not intended, and cannot solve the problem
permanently. This is not the case with the NPR and the Democratic
Party or conservation biologists. They can begin by start taking more
radical positions (as understood for as addressing the roots of the
problems). NPR can start reporting all the other sides of the issues,
even if this may mean losing some contributors. The Democratic Party
can start representing more the underrepresented majority of the
country, even if this costs one election or of two (like the pain of a root
canal treatment) while they gain the trust of the people. Conservation
and conservation biologists can start working more in a multidisciplinary
fashion towards solving the real problems; even if this means learning
things we did not know and we were not interested in originally. At the
very least we should start talking about a change in paradigms beyond
the pure scientific issues, and open up the debate about going beyond
simply suggesting conservation policies. Another desirable consequence
would be for conservation biologists to stop practicing Tylenol
conservation. Granted that many will continue doing the work we know
how to do and a lot (most?) of it falls within the category of palliatives
rather than solutions. However we must not call it a solution if it does
not address the real problem. We must identify it as being a palliative
and go on record, pointing out what the real solution would be and that
the real issue must be addressed. So long as the people, and funding
organizations, feel they are doing something to solve the problems, it
diverts them from taking real actions and making the sacrifices that are
needed to make a difference.
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Berry, W. 2001. Thoughts in the presence of fear. Orion:available at
Carter, J. 2006. Palestine peace not apartheid. Simon and Schuster, New
Czech, B. 2000. Economic growht as the limiting factor for wildlife
conservation. Wildlife Society Bulletin 28:4-14.
Czech, B., P. R. Krausman, and P. K. Devers. 2000. Economic
associations among causes of species endangerment in the United
States. BioScience 50:593-601.
McDonough, W., and M. Braungart 2002. Cradle to cradle: remaking the
way we make things. North Point press, New York.
Rivas, J. A. 2007a. Conservation of Anacondas: How Tylenol
Conservation and Macroeconomics Threaten the Survival of the World's
Largest Snake. Iguana 14:10-21.
Rivas, J. A. 2007b. La conservaci�n ambiental y el Socialismo: ensayo
para un manifiesto conservacionista. Encontrarte 55:1-20 availabe at English
version HERE
� Copyright 2007 by A
The Author
Jes�s A. Rivas is a biologist from the Universidad Central de Venezuela.
His research interests include natural history, ethology, and
conservation. He has been working for a number of years in the study of
behavioral ecology and conservation of large tropical reptiles of the
llanos of Venezuela which is his homeland. He obtained his Ph.D. from
the University of Tennessee (Laboratory of Reptile Ethology). He taught
for one year at Boston University, made TV documentaries for National
Geographic Television as a field correspondent and continues to make
independent film documentaries. He is currently Assistant Professor in
the Department of Math and Natural Sciences at Somerset Community
College in Somerset, KY. He is also a prolific writer on social and political
matters. His essays are frequently published in Spanish at
Read more about his interesting background at:
He can be reached at: Visit his website at:
Other articles by Jes�s A. Rivas
Environmental Conservation and Socialism. A Conservationist
Manifesto for the Venezuela's revolution
Rivas, J. A. 2007a. Demograf�a y conservaci�n: �Cuantos somos,
cuantos necesitamos y cuantos cabemos? Aporrea
Rivas, J. A. 2007b. La conservaci�n ambiental y el Socialismo: ensayo
para un manifiesto conservacionista. Encontrarte 55:1-20 disponible en
Rivas, J. A. 2007c. La diferencia entre el socialismo y el capitalismo:
mas all� de las relaciones de producci�n. Aporrea
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Rivas, J. A., and R. Lavieri. 2007. El manejo social del Latifundio y la
conservaci�n del medio ambiente. Aporrea
Contact Jes�s Rivas:
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Associations among causes of species endangerment in the United States reflect the integration of economic sectors, supporting the theory and evidence that economic growth proceeds at the competitive exclusion of nonhuman species in the aggregate.
The South Atlantic Quarterly 101.2 (2002) 279-284 I. The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day. II. This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a "new world order" and a "new economy" that would "grow" on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be "unprecedented." III. The dominant politicians, corporate officers, and investors who believed this proposition did not acknowledge that the prosperity was limited to a tiny percent of the world's people, and to an ever smaller number of people even in the United States; that it was founded upon the oppressive labor of poor people all over the world; and that its ecological costs increasingly threatened all life, including the lives of the supposedly prosperous. IV. The "developed" nations had given to the "free market" the status of a god, and were sacrificing to it their farmers, farmlands, and communities, their forests, wetlands, and prairies, their ecosystems and watersheds. They had accepted universal pollution and global warming as normal costs of doing business. V. There was, as a consequence, a growing worldwide effort on behalf of economic decentralization, economic justice, and ecological responsibility. We must recognize that the events of September 11 make this effort more necessary than ever. We citizens of the industrial countries must continue the labor of self-criticism and self-correction. We must recognize our mistakes. VI. The paramount doctrine of the economic and technological euphoria of recent decades has been that everything depends on innovation. It was understood as desirable, and even necessary, that we should go on and on from one technological innovation to the next, which would cause the economy to "grow" and make everything better and better. This of course implied at every point a hatred of the past, of all things inherited and free. All things superceded in our progress of innovations, whatever their value might have been, were discounted as of no value at all. VII. We did not anticipate anything like what has now happened. We did not foresee that all our sequence of innovations might be at once overridden by a greater one: the invention of a new kind of war that would turn our previous innovations against us, discovering and exploiting the debits and the dangers that we had ignored. We never considered the possibility that we might be trapped in the webwork of communication and transport that was supposed to make us free. VIII. Nor did we foresee that the weaponry and the war science that we marketed and taught to the world would become available, not just to recognized national governments, which possess so uncannily the power to legitimate large-scale violence, but also to "rogue nations," dissident or fanatical groups and individuals—whose violence, though never worse than that of nations, is judged by the nations to be illegitimate. IX. We had accepted uncritically the belief that technology is only good; that it cannot serve evil as well as good; that it cannot serve our enemies as well as ourselves; that it cannot be used to destroy what is good, including our homelands and our lives. X. We had accepted too the corollary belief that an economy (either as a money economy or as a life-support system) that is global in extent, technologically complex, and centralized is invulnerable to terrorism, sabotage, or war, and that it is protectable by "national defense." XI. We now have a clear, inescapable choice that we must make. We can continue to promote a global economic system of unlimited "free trade" among corporations, held together by long and highly vulnerable lines of communication and supply, but now recognizing that such a system will have to be protected by a hugely expensive police force that will be worldwide, whether maintained by one nation or several or all, and that such a police force will be effective precisely to the extent that it oversways the freedom and privacy of the citizens of every nation. XII. Or we can promote a decentralized world economy...
The concept of limiting factor includes the lack of welfare factors and the presence of decimating factors. Originally applied to populations and species, the concept may also be applied to wildlife in the aggregate. Because the decimating factor of economic growth eliminates welfare factors for virtually all imperiled species via the principle of competitive exclusion, economic growth may be classified as the limiting factor for wildlife conservation. The wildlife profession has been virtually silent about this limiting factor, suggesting that the profession has been laboring in futility. The public, exhorted by neoclassical economists and political leaders, supports economic growth as a national goal. To address the limiting factor for wildlife conservation, wildlife professionals need to become versed in the history of economic growth theory, neoclassical economic growth theory, and the alternative growth paradigm provided by ecological economics. The Wildlife Society should lead the natural resources professions in developing a position on economic growth.
Palestine peace not apartheid
  • J Carter
Carter, J. 2006. Palestine peace not apartheid. Simon and Schuster, New York.
Demograf�a y conservaci�n: �Cuantos somos
  • J A Rivas
Rivas, J. A. 2007a. Demograf�a y conservaci�n: �Cuantos somos, cuantos necesitamos y cuantos cabemos? Aporrea